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Communications Design Industry Discussion, Inspiration, & Tutorials

Feb 15, 2016

(surprise) Interview Question: What kind of Animal are you?

I helped out a new job seeker with a mock interview last month, over salads and wine. This young woman is in search of a junior designer position within an educational institution--a regional behemoth. But I digress…

She did a bit of practicing before we met up and I asked her a few basic questions over bread and olive oil. In addition to the  usual suspects I decided to throw in one of those curveball questions, just to break her out of the practiced answers that she was giving. I asked:

"If you were an Animal, What Would you be?"

That actually stopped my young friend in her tracks, she looked up to the right, thinking. After a long while, she said "I don't know." The curveball completely knocked all reasonable thought out of her head. This is a tactic employed by some interviewers. It's not actually meant to leave you stuttering, but rather it's meant to see how you think critically and might see yourself in the hierarchy of the organization.

I had to tell my friend not to freak out. Instead of pursuing the question OR giving her time to pick one of the millions of species of animals that she has to choose, I asked her the following questions…speaking not as a mock interviewer, but her friend who just bought her dinner:

  • Seriously, what do you know about the company and this job that you've applied for?
  • From what you know, can you seriously see yourself working there and making a difference to their mission? 
  • What are your traits that make it possible?

From her answers to those above, I used her words to formulate this follow up...
  • Okay, so in a setting like Organization X, that calls for hard work, and dedication to strong communities, positive growth, and increased academic achievement for youth, are your traits an appropriate fit?

How do you Answer that Question

I answered for her, "so, you would be a pit bull, or a Thai Fighting Fish, or a Rooster, or a Rabbit, or a Gecko". Pick one, or pick a completely different animal if you want. I had to explain that the actual answer is about the traits and habits that she brings to the table. She needs to pick the traits and morph these into an animal. Whatever animal.

We spent the next few minutes playing a game where I'd throw out random positive traits and she'd pick an animal and explain them in  a few words (like dolphins have great communication and organizational skills…). This was a bit of fun, but you get the idea.

In a nutshell, my friend had already thought about and outlined her strengths and what positive attributes she brought to the job. She simply needed to revisit those in order not to be blindsided by this surprise question. 

One last thing, this question may never be asked in a job interview, so don't stress yourself about coming up with the ideal animal that will play well with others in a professional setting.

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